The foundation of our existence, and the nourishment that we unknowingly rely on every day, is comprised of six primary natural resources – water, air, oil, natural gas, coal and minerals. But these are highly limited and precious. The sheer volume of doomsday messages and grim statistics that we are bombarded with, every day, seems to have created some visibility of the plethora of environmental crises that we are facing.
But this has not necessarily translated into widespread awareness and consciousness. With every disposable coffee cup, straw and plastic bottle (that we consume daily), to the old mobile phone (that we discard to the local kabadi-wala), we are gradually choking our planet, the basis of our existence. Our unintentional ‘bad choices’ will no longer be a threat in the distant future. They are already adversely affecting our lives today. No amount of money or wealth can protect us if we do not do something right now.
This year, March 18 commemorated the first Global Recycling Day, initiated by the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) – the first non-profit organisation that has been championing the cause of recycling, globally, for 70 years now. The aim of the Global Recycling Day is to change the mindsets of governments, businesses, communities and individuals around the world, so that recyclables are viewed as a resource, and not as wastes. These recyclables are the ‘seventh resource’ that also provide one of the simplest solutions to the crises that the other six resources are currently embroiled in.
The BIR’s manifesto primarily motivates people to question the choices they make as consumers and world citizens and also rethink the relationship they share with the earth’s finite resources. It also challenges individuals to ask themselves seven key questions. These relate to the proper disposal of discarded consumables to ensure recycling, following or changing municipal policies, understanding the chain of events that occur after various products are thrown away and following the golden rule of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) – in order to sustain or extend the longevity of various items. The other questions relate to our commitment to producing as little waste as possible, the choice of brands that promote ‘recycling-friendly’ purchases and knowledge of government legislations, so that we can demand more if required.
The manifesto further highlights certain changes that have become urgent and non-negotiable for a unified and global recycling approach. These include the negotiations of new international agreements, strengthening of existing ones and promoting and supporting the sustainable trade (repurposing) of recyclable materials to ecologically-sound companies. In addition, a common language of recycling needs to be agreed upon in order to ensure consistent messaging. This will ensure that people are educated about its critical necessity.
By making recycling a community issue, initiatives at all levels will be able to garner support and industries at large will be compelled to encourage ‘design for recycling’ for the reuse of materials, reducing waste and integrating ‘end-of-life’ functionality in the designing stage itself. This will lead to support and funding for research and innovations that foster improved recycling practices.
India’s flourishing and informal recycling economy must be effectively leveraged in order to ensure clean waste management. A circular economy can further ensure the optimal utilisation of limited resources. However, such solutions will be rendered ineffective unless we correct our own irresponsible and harmful disposal practices.
The world celebrated Earth Day on April 22, but the efforts towards a sustainable and safe future must permeate our quotidian lives. Civic participation must not be limited to emotional posts pledging for a greener and cleaner planet.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.